RELEASE DATE: 03/12/2015
RUN TIME: 2HR 2MIN
Author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw, ‘Spectre’) hears rumours of the mysterious fate of the whaler Essex, so tracks down the last survivor of that ship. He begs Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) to tell him the story. Nickerson refuses, but his wife (Michelle Fairly) persuades him, as the secret of the Essex eats Nickerson up inside. He tells Melville of when he was a boy on the Essex and the ship’s encounter with the white whale. Now begins the story within, of the conflict between First Mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain George Pollard (Benjamin Walker).
‘In The Heart of the Sea’ should have been spectacular. The story of a homicidal whale, doggedly hunting down a whaler and her crew as revenge for man’s murdering of his kind? This tale could have been massive (see what I did there?). But no, it’s actually pretty boring. There’s far less action than expected, though what there is, is pretty good. There’s very little in character development, as we never spend enough time with any one character to know all that much about him. Chase gets the most screen time, and we get a little backstory (though it doesn’t make sense – how did Nickerson know about Chase’s personal life?). All the acting is decent, though the accents needed a lot of work. Considering few of the main players are American (interesting casting choice), many of them struggle with the Nantucket American inflections.
The story isn’t predictable, which should be a good thing, but instead of giving a good twist, the plot shies away from anything really intriguing. At some point the film stops being about a killer whale, and becomes a survival story. This doesn’t help solidify the plot, instead muddying it. The ending is soft, anti-climatic, and rather a shame. But such is the plight of a true(ish) story. Speaking of which, it’s all rather believable; the human story and that of the whale are not so far-fetched, considering. There’s some interesting commentary on the arrogance of humanity but this wasn’t followed through to its potential; which is the main issue of this film – failed potential.
‘In The Heart of the Sea’ should have been spectacular. But no, it’s actually pretty boring.
What is good about it? The special effects and CGI whales are pretty impressive, while the ships and sets are very good. The setup for the story and opening explanation are handled well. The 3D is effective while unobtrusive (just how I like it) and so is the score. The cuts between present and past are never confusing, and some of the finest acting of the film appeared in the storytelling scenes between Whishaw, Gleeson and Fairly. These are three very impressive performers. The building of tension is pretty darn good, but is let down with such a soft climax that the tension was somewhat wasted.
Overall, this film is anticlimactic. Most of the best bits are in the trailer, but if this is a subject that interests you, you could do much worse than ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’